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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"The Nanny" Starring California

nan-ny: noun, : a child's nurse or caregiver

We think of nannies as individuals charged to care for and protect the children of others--for a fee. I grew up with some two wonderful nannies: Maria and Mary Poppins, okay they both happened to be Julie Andrews. While my nannies were fictional my mom was real, a strong and intelligent woman who had a wonderful sense of humor and raised my sister, brother and I to be respectful, courteous, kind and thoughtful. Our dad travelled quite a bit for his career so many of the trials and tribulations of growing up led to mom, putting on band-aids, resovling disputes, helping with school projects, car pooling to football or ballet. For us nannies were fictional characters plopped into households with disinterested or distracted parents who did not have the time to raise their children so they paid someone to do it for them.

Starting today, July 1st, California has some new laws taking effect meant to protect us, the citizens of California. Most notable of these laws are those meant to protect me, and more importantly my children, from getting fat or obsese; taking the responsibility for good nutrition and dietary habits away from the family and giving it to the state and those who provide food for us. Starting today restaurants must post the calories of every serving--because I really had no idea that a dinner of a bacon-avocado cheeseburger, fries and chocolate-coconut cheesecake was probably higher in calories than the grilled chicken salad with vinagrette on the side. Starting today high schools will no longer be able to sell sodas to students--because they will not go off campus to get sodas anyway and the net result will be a loss in revenue for clubs and student organizations. Starting today all schools in the state can no longer use those nasty transfats--margarine, shortening or oils that contain trans-fats; since the schools are already providing free lunches to much of the population they want to make sure they are somewhat not unhealthy. Okay, I'll give them this one, while still overly intrusive to me--I think local districts should be working with parents and the local community to develop healthy breakfasts and lunches using non-fried foods, preservatives or colorings as much as possible. So one out of three new laws, actually not a bad record for our state goverment.

On top of previous laws passed, over one thousand per year in California the past several years, the state has intruded more and more into our lives and what should be our responsibilities. While you cannot legislate against stupidity you can legislate stupidly and that is what California's lawmakers have tried to do and done the past decade or more. Law after law after law is passed that is intendend to "protect" the people of California, as if the Legislature can supercede God and prevent death. One tragic accident happens and someone dies as a result and the lawmakers go into full nanny mode and legislation begins to pour out of Sacramento to prevent such a tragedy again. From what we can do in our cars, to where people can smoke, to building standards against the one in a thousand years earthquake, California lawmakers have spent hours and days and weeks crafting legislation that is meant to save us from ourselves.

A child's nurse or caregiver, for a fee. While California lawmakers have played nanny to the citizens of the state, their main charges as nannies have not been the ordinary citizens of their districts however, the main role of protection and nurturing and care giving has been those who pay the fees for their services. If the Legislature is the Nanny, the citizens are the step-children in the relationship and the real children are the public employees--by far the biggest benefactors in the nanny state. As the annual budget deficits and debates occur in Sacramento the biggest piece of our budget--salaries and benefits--are rarely a part of any discussions. Until now.

The nannies in the Democratic majority in the Assembly and Senate are circling their prams as it is evident that their charges are going to have to pay some of the price to achieve a balanced budget. This week Governor Schwarzenegger stated he wants a two-tiered pension system for public employees, the existing tier affect the 200,000 plus employees and a new tier for everyone hired from today forward. The nannies are in an uproar trying to protect employees who have not yet been hired yet. Why? Because they are in office almost exclusively because of the funding their campaigns have received from the public employee unions. Changing benefits and retirement for future employees changes the funds flowing through the unions, and that is not good for future campaign donations.

For the past decade the nannies have pushed through budgets, with some Republicans signing off on them and Republican Governor(s) signing the budgets, that have increased the number of state employees--increasing the size of the public employee unions, increasing their dues revenue, increasing their political contributions and increasing the campaign donations given to elect and re-elect the lawmakers. A very nice relationship that has been incredibly beneficial to both sides has resulted in a Legislature with too much time spent passing laws impacting the rest of the state and protecting the workers for the state.

Gabriella Holt, who ran for Assembly in Long Beach and lost to a Democrat with full backing from state employee union, has started a group that is on the right track. Citizens for California Reform is committed to changing the structure of California's government, mainly by returning our Legislature to a part-time position. Holt argues, rightfully I feel, that our state elected officials are over-paid and by being full time have too much time when they are not governing and therefore are able to meddle. A full time legislature that year after year cannot follow the state constitution, missing annual budget deadlines every year. So what are they doing all year if they are not addressing and working on the number one issue in the state? Banning sodas, counting your calories, increasing taxes, hiring more workers and adding to the expenses for the state today and for decades to come.

A nanny is paid to take care of someone else's children. If California is a Nanny State, who are the children that are the primary focus of the nannies' care, you or the state workers? With the economic situation the way it is, let's cut back expenses and cut our nanny to part-time.


Bob Schilling said...

Well, principle, letting us take care of ourselves seems really attractive, not to mention being a great deal cheaper. BUT...

Obesity is pretty clearly a public health problem. I'm all for regulating what's served in public schools, not so strong on banning sodas (maybe require healthy alternatives?)

I smoked for years, and finally quit. It's addictive. That said, I think I'd favor having some bars and clubs where smoking is allowed. Raise their insurance premiums and post warnings, but skip the puritan restrictions.

Anything that breaks a driver's concentration is dangerous to you and those aroung you at 75 mph in stop-and-go traffic. That said, passing laws that aren't enforced any more than the official speed limit doesn't do much more than provide a modest stimulus to the printing industry.

The growth of state employees is directly related to the ability of public employee unions to contribute to political campaigns. Union officials "win" when they attract more members, and they pass along the benefits in the form of larger contributions. There's no effective countervailing force. I'm in favor of a constitutional amendment that would prevent it.

The preceding imbalance in power is the heart of the pension problem. Defined contribution pensions are perfectly fine, as long as employees and employers contribute fairly. For regular pensions, you have to work about 25 years to get half pay. The unions, however, have collapsed the time served requirement for police and firefighters to about 20 years, and replaced average salary with final year's salary as the baseline. Not so bad in itself, but they've limited employee contributions so they threaten to unbalance the system.

In general, I'm all for getting rid of laws and restrictions we don't need. I'd welcome a wholesale review of the California Code with an eye to making it simpler -- and shorter. Let's remember in doing so that those of us who are better off tend to demand lower taxes, while those less fortunate petition for enhanced services -- and both points of view have merit.

Dennis C Smith said...

Bob: Perhaps the closest you and I have come to total agreement, in the spirit of the celebration of our nation's Independence perhaps!?

Those less fortunate petetion for enhanced services loses me however. You look at the services provided and they are very extensive from education to food to shelter to health care at no cost to many. Each generation the services provided seem less than what they should be until total reliance on the state by the majority becomes the objective--and frankly I feel that is the objective of more and more in government.

Happy Independence Day, enjoy your liberties sir!